Improving Internal Communication to Maintain Your Customer Service Edge

improve internal customer communicationsEfficient management of marketing and sales information flowing from customers to internal team members can impact a customer’s experience and overall satisfaction

Consumer dissatisfaction was the biggest culprit behind slumping sales in 2014, reported the American Customer Satisfaction Index, commenting on a third-quarter 0.7 percent decline that brought national customer satisfaction to its lowest level since 2011. Part of the problem is rising consumer expectations in an era of mobile shopping, where buyers expect instant gratification and unlimited selection at competitive prices.

Even customer service leaders such as Amazon are struggling to match expectations. An Answers Corporation study reported that the e-commerce giant’s consumer satisfaction rating dropped five points in 2014, attributed partly to buyers using mobile devices to comparison shop against competitors.

Answers senior vice president of products, Jim Yang says retailers who want to maintain relevance must work harder to improve customer satisfaction in 2015. One way to do this is streamlining your company’s internal communications in order to provide better service to external customers.

The Importance of Omnichannel Awareness

The information flow between your customers and your team connects all your channels of communication, as illustrated by the case of Nordstrom, the highest-ranked retailer in ASCI’s latest satisfaction survey. According to New Rules of Retail author Robin Lewis, one key to Nordstrom’s success is its leadership in exploiting omnichannel marketing. For instance, Nordstrom has adopted an Instagram-like platform called Like2Buy to enable shoppers to navigate directly from product photos to sales pages. Nordstrom social media manager Bryan Galipeau says this helps Nordstrom’s team reduce the need to field frequently-asked customer service questions about product availability and pricing.

Nordstrom’s analysts also use data from the company’s Pinterest page to determine which products are popular. This data is passed on to employees in physical stores so that they can place in-demand items in prominent places on the sales floor.

Channeling the Flow of Internal Communication

As Nordstrom’s case illustrates, effective omnichannel customer service pivots around efficient management of marketing and sales information flowing from customers to team members. A Connecting with Customers survey of 5,700 online consumers found that 83 percent need help when making purchases, and 48 percent will abandon purchase if support is not available within five minutes.

Effectively deploying representatives to meet this demand for service requires efficient internal communication, an area where business organizational expert Carter McNamara says most companies make some common mistakes. According to McNamara, the most prevalent problem is falsely assuming that information known in one area of the company has been communicated to the appropriate staff. A manifestation of this that can affect customer service is when one customer deals with multiple representatives who do not pool information. To fix this, a cloud-based contact center such as Zipwire that can integrate customer service with CRM tools can coordinate internal communications and provide a smoother customer service experience.

Getting Everybody on One Page

B2B marketing provider Napier emphasizes that poor internal communication between marketing and other departments can inhibit the effectiveness of sales campaigns, pointing to another variable impacting customer service. Napier stresses the need for marketing specialists to take a more proactive role in distributing information that can help sales representatives match products and services to customers. Simply putting marketing information on the company’s SharePoint site isn’t enough. Napier recommends regular email updates as the best way to get the marketing message delivered to other areas of the company.

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Roy Rasmussen

Roy Rasmussen, co-author of "Publishing for Publicity," is a freelance copywriter who helps small businesses get more customers and make more sales. His specialty is helping experts reach their target market with a focused sales message. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, and business coaching.